The gaming industry is like a constantly evolving organism. The different publishers as well as developer studios today are inspired by new ideas of their competitors and, with that, morph the whole gaming industry into one trending topic at a time. The most recent example is the sheer amount of upcoming Zombie/Survival games after the launch of the DayZ-Mod. More of that later on.
Several years ago, this was a long-term process. It took figuratively ages from the idea and the first steps of development to the final feedback by the gaming community. So trends did spread throughout the industry as they do today, but it’s only been a few years since there another, much quicker way to get feedback from the community was created.
What am I talking about?
YouTube – A place where each and every user can share their ideas, talents and – to get back on topic – their gaming skills. The so-called ‘Let’s Play’- Videos are mostly simple playthroughs of games with a voiceover commentary, which is recorded live while progressing through the game. Similar things have existed since the beginning of the internet. Back then it was in written form and only spiced up with a screenshot now and then. But as the importance of the internet as a medium developed, the attention span of people has shifted into a rather short one. There are not many people who have the motivation to read pages over pages of playthrough only to see what happens in a game.
The next logical step for the people who wrote these stories back then, was to move over to the online broadcasting platform. This way they could get more into the matter of the game on the one hand, and show off their skills as well. Today there are thousands if not millions of gaming channels and networks, whose sole purpose is to produce entertaining and informing content for their audience. These creators are watched not only because of the well-developed games they play, but because they are unique personalities. They give a clear, unbiased opinion on the game they are playing. That is why they have such a huge influence on the whole gaming industry. They are like rockstars whose viewership would believe and follow everything they say. It is a simple but very human psychological effect. An effect that can, is and will be used by the industry.
What is the industry doing and where does it go from here?
The influence the gaming content has on the industry itself has different aspects to it. First there is the most obvious: The YouTube Community consists of people like you and me. Those people range from casual gamers up to professionals who compete in E Sports leagues or writers from gaming magazines. It is the ultimate form of feedback, and publishers can see how their target group judges their art.
But as the progress of the aforementioned DayZ Mod has shown, there even is a way to get ideas for development. In April 2012, Bohemia Interactive developer Dean ‘Rocket’ Hall launched the alpha version of a mod of Armed Assault II, a Bohemia game. The Community basically freaked out with excitement about the new, innovative Zombie survival simulator. While the Zombie scheme was established and used for many years, the realistic survival aspect of DayZ was new. Because this game is ,open world‘, the player can pretty much forge his own story, as there is none scripted into the mod. After several YouTubers tried out the game and created an amount of different versions of gameplay on their own, the developers took all the feedback they could get and developed the game around the ideas and wishes of the community, forging a masterpiece of game-art. Today there is a complete standalone built-in development, which follows the same mechanism of open alpha testing. A few years ago, Mojang used the same tactic to develop their popular game Minecraft, which also lets the player create their own story inside the game. Nowadays it is a very common way for indie developers to get their alpha out for a public alpha testing. The YouTubers use these open world titles to make theatrical or sheer entertaining content and in the follow up the community buys the games to create their own stories. In the process of doing so, they also create a pool of instant feedback for the studios to get ideas for development.
You surely must have recognized what kind of games I personally prefer by now. But also the big, non-Indie franchises have their part in here. Games like Battlefield and Call of Duty, League of legends and Dota, but also the good old World of Warcraft find their place in the Let’s Play World. Companies like Twitch.tv grew out of the idea that gaming can be so much more than just doing it yourself. Just like soccer matches are watched by millions of people, the fans of different games are similarly entertained by just watching their favorite streamers play for hours and hours. YouTube also launched its own live streaming service in reaction. It isn’t completely new as an idea, but surely is made more accessible to the crowds of people who could be interested in it.
How can the industry use this trend?
The Let’s Play movement has a huge influence on the market and in the end on the community and potential customer. If you, as a developer want to create an awesome game, listen to the community, use the incredible power of YouTube and the whole Internet to guide you through development and this way, create something unique and amazing. It’s not only something that drifts by. It’s a big part of what gaming is today. Use it =)